Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg began in 1971 when founder Michael Hart was given an unexpected gift. As a joke, the computer operators at the Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois gave him a computer account with $100,000,000 of computer time in it. After receiving this unexpected gift, Michael thought for an hour or so and decided that the greatest value created by computers would not be computing, but rather the storage and retrieval of the information that was stored in our libraries. And he also devised a clever plan to repay his hundred-million dollar "debt". Hart proceeded to type in the "Declaration of Independence", and Project Gutenberg was born.  

Today there over three thousand public domain works available through Project Gutenberg. Due to copyright issues, you won't see the latest best-sellers or modern computer books in the PG library, but you will find: * Classics from the start of this century and previous centuries from authors like Shakespeare, Poe, Dante * Well-loved favorites like the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Tarzan books of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Alice in Wonderland * The Bible and other religious documents, along with references such as Roget's Thesaurus, almanacs, a set of encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.  

Hart's philosophy was that anything entered into a computer can be reproduced indefinitely. And theoretically, anyone in the world can have a copy of a book that has been entered into a computer. In an effort to make the Project Gutenberg "Etexts" as widely usable as possible, they are available in ASCII, or plain text format. Thus, people with most any type of computer - DOS, Apple, Atari, Mac, Windows, UNIX or mainframe can read the Etexts without any special software. This is a great philosophy! I'm so sick of receiving documents that require me to download and install a software package just to read them. All too often, those bulky Acrobat, Word, RichText, PostScript, or PowerPoint documents have little added value over a simple text file. To make things worse, they're not searchable by standard utilities that don't understand all those proprietary formats.  

Project Gutenberg's team of volunteers is close to producing their 3500th Etext, and they are working toward a goal of having 6300 Etexts online by August of 2004. Some of their efforts have been hampered though, by legislation that has extended copyrights in several countries from 50 to 70 years after the author's death. You can read more about copyright issues on the PG site.  

Getting Involved: Project Gutenberg is a volunteer organization funded by private donations and a grant from Carnegie Mellon University . If you'd like to help in the work of preserving and distributing public domain literature (and doing something personal to make the Internet a richer resource) you can get involved in a variety of ways. Volunteers are needed to locate and scan texts, do editing, proofreading and other jobs. And since the funds to continue this work are always scarce, monetary donations are always welcome. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, you can do so by check, money order, credit card or Paypal. For details, see:

Do something nice for your brain - unplug the television tonight and pay a visit to Project Gutenberg, then search for your favorite classic by author or title and curl up with a nice electronic book.

(This article is taken almost verbatim from the Internet Tourbus, an “e-zine” I receive about twice a week.  The e-zine is written by Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispin and is great for internet searchers.  Marilyn Brusherd)